With the selection of its next president, Alabama A&M University (AAMU) is at a pivotal point in its history. In a few days, the Board of Trustees will select the 12th president of the largest Historically Black College and University in the state.
As a business leader in Huntsville, I know that a healthy and thriving AAMU is crucial for North Alabama’s success and continued growth. AAMU has an economic impact of over $350 million statewide and $228 million in the greater Huntsville area, according to the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Commerce. Through its more than 6,100 students and 1,092 employees, AAMU is ranked No. 19 among the Top 20 largest employers in the Tennessee Valley region.
Since the announcement of Dr. Andrew Hugine’s retirement in December 2020, the Trustees have been strategically focused with establishing a framework for the presidential search process to deliver transparency and confidentiality for all candidates therefore, confirming accountability for the institution and the public.
Institutions today are challenged with an ever-changing economy, societal implications, the need for accountability, and academic performance. For AAMU to achieve its’ full potential the school must be led by an experienced and qualified individual with a vast higher education background.
In March, a diverse search committee, chaired by Trustee Dr. Wayne Watts, was formed consisting of trustees, faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community stakeholders committing time and a willingness to follow a strict code of confidentiality. The search committee collaborated with consultants from Academic Search, a leading higher education executive search agency, to begin the task of confirming the next president with the required academic experience, leadership, and administrative skills to lead AAMU.
According to Dr. Watts, in May, the search committee and search agency began holding sessions with university constituents including faculty, staff, students, alumni, and board members to prepare a comprehensive university profile to draft a presidential search prospectus.
In June, the presidential search was publicly launched with a closing date of July 30th for applications to receive full consideration by the search committee and agency. Fifty-three applicants applied with 17% having served as current or former presidents or CEO’s and 42% of the applicants were current or former vice presidents.
To ensure transparency, the board’s search process has been consistent with ACTA’s search process confirming that trustees determine the dates for the new president to assume office and a deadline for the search committee to provide the board with an unranked list of three to five final candidates.
I have been encouraged by the fact that trustees have executed a diligent search to secure a strong leader for continued long-term success. This collaborative eight-month process conducted by trustees, the search committee and the search agency, has allowed for the development and distribution of the prospectus, review of applications, confirming unranked finalists, and interviews.
As a business owner and major employer in North Alabama, I am excited about AAMU’s future, and I look forward to working with the next president to build on President Hugine’s historic successes.
Billy Taylor serves as Founder and CEO of Hometown Lenders, Alabama’s largest independent mortgage lender and one of the fastest growing mortgage lenders in the nation.